Corrections: Apologies to Major Stephen Caton as I had misspelt his name in my original post, likely due to lack of sleep and the short time frame for posting this article.
When commenting on the popular online blog LimeyinBermuda.com, Major Stephen Caton, the public relations officer for the Bermuda Regiment can be quoted as suggesting “having presented to all of the Recruits … I can assure you … that none see themselves prisoners.”
When looking up the definition of the word prisoner in the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, which is defined as “a person who is confined in prison or kept in custody, especially as the result of legal process. “, where custody is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as “The state of being detained or held under guard”, could any individual presently in the regiment feel restricted via similar means?
Are our youth being subjected to treatment likened to that which they consider themselves prisoners? At least one can guarantee that Major Caton is wrong, as this writer is one who sees himself as a prisoner as he presently serves his time in this years 2007 recruit camp.
Being required by law to join regiment is little different from being imprisoned or enslaved. As defined by the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, a slave is “a person entirely under the domination of some influence or person”. While attending recruit camp, are recruits not placed under the custody of their superiors and kept under guard unable to leave or resign by their own will?
Does refusal to follow the influence of those superiors not result in punishments of up to 28 days in regimental lockup for each offense, potentially jeopardizing external life and forcing an individual to sacrifice their career? Do attempts to leave or not appear as required result in punishment legally bound through the Defense Act of 1965 which could result in a prison sentence and criminal record that could effectively disable an individual from attaining employment or traveling for the rest of their lifetime?
What of the fear propaganda where recruits are constantly reminded that if they don’t follow orders they shall be locked up? Like how Corporals who run each barracks read out months old articles describing the prison sentences received for those who chose to not fulfill their legally bound requirement. Along with posting them as a reminder that those who step out of line will be punished. Is this not an example of a person who is confined as a result of legal process?
What of the 18 hour days during recruit camp? Where individuals are forced to constantly run and perform tasks as demanded by their superiors. Are they not forced to ask permission to eat, sleep, attend the bathroom? Are they not confined to their rooms after lights out and forced to pee in a bag should they need to urinate between the hours of 11pm and 5:30am? Sleep often falling shy of these hours due to extra duties that will result in further punishment?
Could 18 hour days at a rate of less then $4.00 an hour, which is less then the minimum wage of most developed nations not be likened to slave wages? Especially when Bermuda has now been defined as the richest country in the world based upon GDP per capita? Why should individuals be forced to give up weeks of good wages in exchange for meager ones in the face of Bermuda’s continually rising cost of living?
Why is discrimination acceptable on the basis of age and sex not just in the process of drafting individuals, but also in the regiment itself? Is it not true that women can have braided designs in their hair while men are forced to maintain a 1/4 inch length and are absolutely restricted from having any form of design or pattern in their hair?
How can turning a blind eye to the policy of a random draft be any different then when white people turned a blind eye to slavery in our past? Is the excuse of “it’s a tradition, it has been done for years” a reasonable one? Was it for slavery? Is the excuse of “we won’t have enough men to fill our ranks” no different then the argument of “we won’t have enough blacks to fill our plantation”? The plantations moved on to find other more reasonable means of filling their ranks, why can’t the regiment?
Do you hold the attitude that “it’s not happening to me so why should I worry”? In that case, what makes you any different then those complacent whites who stood back in the days of slavery and segregation to allow it to happen simply because they were not the targets of injustice?
Is Major Caton correct when he suggests that no recruits see themselves as prisoners? Perhaps. The very consideration may rest on the definition of the word. One thing is clear. Freedom, at least for now, is limited to those who rest outside the gates of Warwick camp.